Musk says Neuralink implanted its first device in a human

30 Jan 2024

Elon Musk at the UK AI Summit in 2023. Image: Marcel Grabowski/UK government/Identity/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Musk said the company’s first device is called Telepathy and that it aims to let users control their phone or computer by simply thinking.

Neuralink has successfully installed a brain-implant device into a human for the first time, according to its founder Elon Musk.

The billionaire made the announcement on X and said the individual is “recovering well”. He also claimed the initial results show “promising neuron spike detection” raising hopes that the implant will work properly.

Musk said the company’s first brain-implant product is called Telepathy and aims to lets users control their phone or computer “and through them almost any device” with thought alone.

Neuralink received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year to run clinical trials on humans, in the form of an investigational device exemption. This allows devices to be used in a clinical study in order to collect “safety and effectiveness data”.

Last September, the company began looking for people who have quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to participate in the six-year study.

“Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs,” Musk said on X. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

Neuralink previously said the six-year human trial is being conducted to evaluate the safety of the implant and the company’s surgical robot, R1.

The company said this study represents an important step to create a generalised brain interface that can “restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs”.

Last year, Neuralink raised $280m in a Series D funding round  led by Founders Fund, the VC firm co-founded by billionaire tech investor and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The San-Francisco-headquartered Neuralink is one of many working to advance the field of brain-computer interface technology.

The company has trialled the technology with pigs and monkeys over the years, with one monkey making headlines when it was shown playing the classic video game Pong with its mind via two N1 Link chips embedded in its brain.

But like many companies associated with Musk, Neuralink has been hit with controversy in the past. The company faced federal investigation in the US for potential animal welfare violations during its trials.

Reuters report in December 2022 based on records and sources with direct knowledge of the company’s animal-testing operations found that Neuralink had killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys.

Neuralink was also recently fined for violating US rules regarding the movement of hazardous materials, according to records reviewed by Reuters.

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Elon Musk at the UK AI Summit in 2023. Image: Marcel Grabowski/UK government/Identity via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic